Penny Auctions

Report
Penny Auctions &
Buy it Now
Gabi Lewis & Jason Lee
What are Penny Auctions?
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“Win an Ipad for $40!”
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Auction Format
• Bid packages, bid fees, price increments, timer.
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Auction or Lottery?
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Winner usually pays far less than value.
Loser can pay more than a winner.
Many lawsuits.
Exploit behavioral biases.
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“Diabolically inventive” – Richard Thaler
Market Size
• May 2011: 8.46m unique visitors to all penny auction sites; 3.35m to Quibids.
Quibids Worked
Example
Bid Costs: $0.60
Price increment: $0.02
Total bids: 174078/2 = 87,039
Quibids revenue = 87,039 x 0.60
= 52,223.40
Quibids profit = 52,223.40 20,000 = 32,223.40
Penny Auction Mechanics
• Auction format
• No bidding fee = First-Price Ascending
• No price increment = War of Attrition
• Unpredictable outcomes in real life.
• “Thrill of the hunt” and “Joy for bidding”.
• Sunk cost fallacy.
The Literature
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Unexplored in the economics literature with a few exceptions:
• Platt, Price and Tappen (2011)
• Model suggests a distribution of ending prices (fitting with 57% of auctions).
• Augenblick (2011)
• Sunk costs explain bidder behavior and seller profits.
• Hinnosaar (2010)
• High variance of outcomes is a general property of penny auctions.
• Byers, Mitzenmacher and Zervas (2010)
• Analyze information asymmetry in response to models predicting zero seller profit.
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Of all the auction formats studied extensively in the literature, most closely
resembles the dollar auction (Shubik 1971).
• Paradox of non-cooperation and escalation.
Models from Literature
• N players, fixed valuations, cost per bid.
• Set rounds (not representative of real auctions).
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Continuous bidding or timer model.
• Almost no information asymmetries in terms of
number of players, bid costs, individual valuations
• Aggression model is non-existent with the exception
of most recent paper which looks at winning
statistics where:
• Aggression = # of Bids / Avg. Response Time
Objective / Problem
• Current models are too simple to capture bidding
strategy
• Most models find that buyers should simply purchase at
retail price
• Few models include the “Buy it Now” option and
none analyze its strategic implications.
• Objective: Provide a model that explains the
strategic implications of the “Buy it Now” option.
Buy it Now
• When the auction is over, participants can use previously made
bids as a credit towards purchasing the item at full price.
• Effects?
• Participants can recover their sunk costs.
• No naïve sunk cost fallacy.
• Less overbidding in attempts to recapture sunk investments.
• Upper bound on the potential loss of a participant.
• Increased participation.
• Aggression as a signaling mechanism becomes more credible.
• Hypothesis:
• Buy it Now  upper bound on potential loss  Chicken
The Model
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Assume fixed price auction with price of zero.
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v = common value of item to all players.
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p = Buy it Now price offered by penny auction site, p>v
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B = total bid costs of a player.
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Imagine 2 players, each committed to using buy it now option.
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They will bid either until B = p-v (maximum possible loss) and then use buy it now, or until they
win the auction outright and obtain the item at some discount.
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If both players follow this strategy, they both lose maximum p-v.
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If one player backs down, she loses –B, and other player obtains the item at some discount, βv.
The Model (continued)
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We can model this game theoretically, as a 2x2 matrix.
Back Off
Play until End
Back Off
-B, -B
-B, βv
Play until End
βv, -B
p-v, p-v
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 2 NE in pure strategies.
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One player commits to continuing until the end and the other player backs off.
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 If P1 knows with certainty that P2 will play until end, P1’s BR is back off.
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 Aggression is a natural signaling mechanism.
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The aggression should be early, because it only makes sense to back off when B<p-v. Once B>p-v, the player is
indifferent between bidding or backing off because she is guaranteed to lose p-v.
Conclusions & Future
Research
• In our simplified model, the introduction of a “Buy
it Now” option suggests increased aggression
through the upper bound it creates on potential
losses.
• Implications of “Buy it Now” for seller?
• Introduced to increase participation/profit or to ward
off lawsuits?
• Bidding strategy/aggression with n>2 committed
players? Ascending price auction with price > 0?
References
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Anderson, C. K., & Odegaard, F. (2011). Retail Selling With All-Pay Auctions. In Review. 1-27.
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Byers, J. W., Mitzenmacher, M., & Zervas, G. (2010). Information Asymmetries in Pay-Per-Bid Auctions.
In ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce, 1–12.
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Gnutzmann, H. (2011). Pay-per-bid Auctions. In Review. 1-14.
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Hinnosaar, T. (2010). Penny auctions. Working paper, available at:
toomas.hinnosaar.net/pennyauctions.pdf, accessed 2011-11-10
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Mittal, S. (2010). Equilibrium Analysis of Generalized Penny Auctions. 1-17.
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Augenblick, N. (2009). Consumer and Producer Behavior in the Market for Penny Auctions. 19-21.
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Platt, B. C., Price, J. and Tappen, H. (2011). Pay-to-Bid Auctions. 1-13.
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Shubik, M. (1971) The Dollar Auction Game: A Paradox in Non-cooperative behavior and Escalation. In
The Journal of Conflict Resolution Volume 15 Issue 1, 109-111

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